Florence TIF advances


Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence County is one step closer to having its first tax increment financing (TIF) district.

During a meeting on Tuesday, members of the joint review board unanimously approved a resolution in favor of creating the district in the town of Florence.

Although there was no public comment at the meeting, the proposed TIF district has not been without critics. Officials from the towns of Aurora, Long Lake, and Tipler have all spoken out against the TIF.

Florence County Economic Development Director Wendy Gehlhoff informed the joint review board that the two members of the Florence County Board of Supervisors who voted against a similar resolution last week represent those towns.

Holly Wahlstrom-Stratton represents part of Aurora, and John Halada represents Long Lake and Tipler. The other nine county supervisors voted in favor of the TIF.

“Some outlying areas feel they don’t want the same goals as (the town of) Florence,” Gehlhoff said. “Their fear is that if it fails it will go on the county general tax fund.”

Jared Schmidt, an engineer with Robert E. Lee & Associates of Hobart, Wis., reiterated to the joint review board some points he made at the TIF public hearing earlier this month.

He stressed that certain economic developments would not likely happen in Florence without the help of a TIF, that development will only happen on a conservative, project by project basis, and that Florence County’s proposed TIF is in line with all state requirements.

The proposed TIF district encompasses 651.76 contiguous acres in the town of Florence. Included areas are the industrial park, all of Central Avenue, the Natural Resource Center, the area south of U.S. 2 going west out of town, and some parcels north of the downtown area.

There are 140 parcels in the district, with a valuation of approximately $10 million.

Gehlhoff explained that owners of land and buildings within the TIF district would continue to pay normal taxes to the school, technical college, town, and county.

Any new tax generation, which could come from a new building or growth in property value, would be put aside to pay for new developments, such as roads or utility extensions, within the district, she said.

New developments could be industrial, commercial, or residential in nature. Possible projects include an assisted living center and a hotel.

With approval from both the county board and the joint review board, Florence’s TIF plan will now go to the state of Wisconsin for final approval. If the plan is approved by September, the TIF will have a retroactive starting date of January 1, 2013.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.